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Jawbone Buys BodyMedia for Over $100 Million - Wearable Tech Takes a Major Leap Forward
Wearable Tech World Feature Article
April 30, 2013
Jawbone Buys BodyMedia for Over $100 Million - Wearable Tech Takes a Major Leap Forward
By Tony Rizzo
TMCnet Senior Editor

San Francisco-based Jawbone is primarily known for its JAMBOX wireless speaker and speakerphone, music and Bluetooth headsets, its NoiseAssassin military-grade noise-eliminating technology, and UP, its wearable tech (WT) health wristband and app package that tracks how you sleep, move (physical activity) and eat, then helps you use that information to feel your best. Back in early February, we took note of Jawbone acquiring several companies – Massive Health, a startup with a crowd-sourced and food-related mobile app, and Visere, a small hardware and software design house.

The details for these deals were not disclosed and the purchase prices were no doubt not very large outlays for Jawbone. Today, however, the company reached a bit deeper into its pockets, and came up with over $100 million to acquire BodyMedia (News - Alert), a 14-year-old Pittsburgh-based company that makes health-monitoring armbands.

That is certainly a hefty sum, but how Jawbone is coming up with the money was not divulged. We do know that the BodyMedia team will stay in Pittsburgh, though BodyMedia’s CEO Chris Robins will give up that title and become the general manager of BodyMedia and a vice president of business development at Jawbone.

The move is clearly one Jawbone is making in anticipation of significantly building out its own wearable technology portfolio. With the WT market now at the tipping point to going mainstream, Jawbone is moving quickly to position itself as a serious WT player. With the acquisition Jawbone clearly steps up its game relative to being to deliver actual hardware products that take it beyond its UP platform.

BodyMedia, which will continue to operate as a standalone entity in the short term, has a product suite that is similar in nature to Jawbone’s UP. But, whereas Jawbone targets the consumer market with a product that accurately captures what a consumer wants and typically needs to know, BodyMedia’s wearable tech raises the bar on wearable sensor technology quite a bit. It provides a sophisticated set of four sensors (that measure skin temperature, heat flux, galvanic skin response (GSR) and overall movement) that are able to capture 5,000 data points per minute, and the technology is purposefully geared to professional health and fitness professionals.

The company’s software is also geared to professionals. Its ProConnect software platform, for example, targets professional organizations in helping them manage their clients, patients and customers. The tool gives access to users' Activity Manager accounts that allow professionals to remotely monitor, coach and track client and patient progress.

If you are familiar with Jawbone’s UP hardware – shown below – it essentially looks like the sort of cool piece of jewelry that a millennial might easily feel comfortable sporting. It uses very interesting design and color choices to hide the sensor technology that captures the data used by the UP software – which is both iOS and Android (News - Alert) compatible.

BodyMedia’s hardware, shown below, is decidedly less fashionable. Yes, it is totally wearable, but let’s face it, it’s not a design or jewelry statement for millennials. Rather, it sports a far more utilitarian medical device look and serves as a serious health and fitness tool. But it is much more sophisticated than UP. BodyMedia backs this sophistication up through its IP portfolio of 80 patents, most of them related to body sensor technology – and all of which now become Jawbone’s.

The deal looks to us to be a very nicely additive one. Jawbone’s established design capability (which has been enhanced through its earlier Visere acquisition) and sense of delivering on 21st century millennial style will marry quite nicely with BodyMind’s top notch sensor technologies. Rather than removing a possible competitor from the industry, both companies strike us as being extremely well positioned to deliver a significantly improved competitive product set. Jawbone also enhances its overall WT market presence, expanding beyond its current leisure consumer market and into the lucrative health and fitness WT market.

Finally, BodyMind’s software platform will open Jawbone up for delivering into the professional health and fitness market. But Jawbone is also moving to ensure that it maintains its already very solid relationship with the consumer market. Towards this goal, last month Jawbone added Android support for its own mobile app. Today, in addition to the acquisition announcement, Jawbone also announced that it is now opening up UP and its mobile software, and will work with ten different fitness-app makers – including RunKeeper, MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, Withings, Sleepio and IFTTT – to include and share data from these apps with the Up app. Initially iOS is supported, though we can anticipate Android support down the road.

All in all the deal is a good one, not only for both companies, but for the WT industry itself – it underscores that the WT market is ready to rumble. For those interested in wearable tech, do check out the upcoming Wearable Tech Expo and Conference, coming to New York City in July. We’ll be there, along with many of the industry’s top vendors and thought leaders.

We look forward to seeing BodyMind’s sensors encased in a next generation Jawbone bracelet.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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